The Marlins traded coveted outfielder Christian Yelich to the Brewers on Thursday night, dashing the hopes of Braves fans that Yelich would soon call SunTrust Park home.
One primary reason Yelich didn’t change National League East teams: Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos refused to include top prospect Ronald Acuna in a deal.
Miami got its young outfielder from the Brewers in Lewis Brinson, Baseball America’s No. 18 overall player, as well as three other well-regarded prospects.
“It seems like that’s a good deal for both teams,” Anthopoulos said Saturday. “Miami really, they’ve been very clear about their intentions and long-term goals. They got really good young players.”
But as much as the Braves would’ve loved Yelich’s prime years at an affordable rate, they couldn’t part with the consensus best prospect in baseball.
“Without being obvious, but being obvious, there have been players that’ve been traded, and Ronald Acuna has been asked about,” Anthopoulos said. “We’ll find out if we’re right as an organization. I’ve never seen him play. But there are people who really feel strongly about him. It’d take a lot to trade him. Do I believe in anyone being untradable? No. But if you think you have a middle-of-the-diamond guy, with six years of control, upside; that’s a really tough guy to move.”
Anthopoulos admitted it’s easier to package prospects for one player when you’re coming off the season Milwaukee had. The Brewers surprisingly won 86 games, but fell just short of a wild-card spot. He respects that Milwaukee is going aggressive in an “unbelievable” National League Central.
“I always love it when teams go for it and energize a fan base in Milwaukee,” Anthopoulos said. “I remember years ago, the tailgating was unbelievable. It’s a sneaky good market. They’ve drawn three million fans a bunch of years. And you know, look at those years before (former general manager) Doug Melvin got there. Then when he got there. and they made big trades. David Stearns has taken over and done an unbelievable job with where they’re headed.
“To take that plunge, for smaller markets, that’s what’s good for the game. You’re taking a passionate fan base there, signing a big-time free agent (outfielder Lorenzo Cain), making a push.”
The Braves are still considering outside upgrades, with third base the most likely addition. Despite the interest in Yelich, the team is less inclined to pursue an outfielder because of Acuna.
“We have kicked around doing something in the outfield, but that’s not as big because we don’t want to block Acuna,” Anthopoulos said. “We do feel, at some point in 2018, he’s going to be up here.”
And he’ll have a chance to prove the Braves right for putting their faith in him.